Human Rights

Counter extremism workshop held for parents and children in Ain Issa, Syria


A counter extremism workshop was held in a displacement camp in Ain Issa, which seeks to teach parents how to raise their children and rid their minds of the horrors that they saw under ISIS rule.

Authorities at a displacement camp in Ain Issa, northeastern Syria, have organised a counter-extremism workshop for the camp’s children and parents. The workshop was set up as part of the ongoing efforts to rehabilitate young people that lived within ISIS controlled territories. In Ain Issa, many of the displaced children and parents previously lived in ISIS’ former de-facto capital city, Raqqa.

“The target of this [workshop] were the fathers and the mothers who remained in Raqqa during ISIS’ rule, which has in turn affected their children and the methods of parenting,” said Ali Osman, the coach and psychologist for the workshop. “We wanted to teach parents how to deal with their children and protect them in the future [to prevent them from being] dragged into violence and extremism.”

One of the biggest challenges to the rehabilitation efforts in areas of Syria that have been cleared of its militant presence is the re-education of children and young people. Under the rule of ISIS, children were often forced to attend the militants’ schools and training camps to be indoctrinated with their extremist ideology. Once trained, the children then became Cubs of the Caliphate and were tasked with supporting fighters on the battlefield. Moreover, the children were considered as the next generation of militants following the defeat of ISIS as an organised group across Syria and Iraq. This in effect created a cadre of young sleeper cells that would survive long after the elimination of ISIS.

Rehabilitation initiatives to prevent the further radicalisation of children are in operation across northeastern Syria and northern Iraq. Each programme is based upon an earlier rehabilitation method that was developed by the United Nations in the early 21st century to treat child soldiers that were trained during the Sierra Leone Civil War. The long-term fight against extremism in post-conflict Syria and Iraq is dependent upon the outcome of such interventions, in addition to creating a positive future for children and young people that have otherwise experienced severe trauma.

At the Ain Issa workshop, psychologists trained the parents of children that lived under the rule of ISIS in how to notice the early signs of extremist behaviour. Through the early intervention of their parents, the children can access professional therapy in a far more expedient manner, which could potentially save many lives.

“This session clarified many mysterious things that people were unaware of such as the cases of extremism prior to ISIS,” said Juma Abdul Qareh, a resident of the Ain Issa displacement camp. “We have benefited from this session and learned how to deal with children and future generations and how to secure the wishes of children away from violence. The session was excellent and we took great advantage of it.”